American tourist gang-raped on jungle trek in Papua New Guinea: Report

The Kokoda track in Papua New Guinea.
The Kokoda track in Papua New Guinea.PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

SYDNEY (AFP) - An American woman hiking in Papua New Guinea with her London-based boyfriend was gang-raped and three of her fingers slashed in a brutal attack along a famous World War II trail, a report said on Wednesday (Jan 13).

PNG police said the pair, both aged 31, were on the Kokoda Track, which runs through the jungles of the island state off Australia's north-eastern tip, when they were attacked and stripped of their belongings, including mobile phones, shoes, backpacks and 15,000 kina (S$7,100) in cash.

"Two expatriate tourists, a male and a female, both 31, were trekking the Kokoda Track and heading towards Templeton Two (a campsite) when they were ambushed by armed men," local assistant Police Commissioner Sylvester Kalaut told The National newspaper of the Monday ambush.

"The male trekker was tied to a tree and the female tracker was repeatedly raped before three of her fingers were chopped. The incident took place for an hour before they (trekkers) were set free."

Police described the attack as a gang rape, and told the newspaper at least two suspects carrying bush knives and spears were involved.

One of them was being held by villagers, The National added, which identified the tourists as American and London-based.

The couple fled to a village and were taken to the lawless Pacific island's capital Port Moresby, where they were given medical attention.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed the attack and added that the couple were hiking without a licensed tour operator.

There are endemic levels of domestic violence against women in the Pacific region, with a 2013 United Nations study finding that 80 per cent of men surveyed in PNG reported physically or sexually abusing their partners.

Two years ago, a US academic was gang-raped by an armed mob in the country while conducting research on birds and the impact of climate change in a remote forest on Karkar Island in Madang province.

In the same year, a group of eight Australian and New Zealand trekkers were violently attacked by bandits, with three of their porters killed, while hiking on the remote Black Cat track.

Four of the eight tourists were also hurt, including one who was speared in the leg.